Last Wednesday, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols's contract negotiation deadline, came and went with no deal. So what does this mean? The 9x All-Star will likely hit the free agent market at the conclusion of the 2011 season; unless, of course, he decides that he wants to resume contract negotiations at some point in the coming months.
With Pujols most likely headed into the uncertain waters of free agency after this year's World Series, it begs the question: which teams will make a run at the game's best player?
At this point, the most likely possibility seems to be the Chicago Cubs, who could potentially purge themselves of $40 million in salary with the losses of first baseman Carlos Peña, starting pitcher Carlos Silva, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome at season's end. It seems unlikely that Pujols would join a division rival this offseason. However, the reason the 6x Silver Slugger Award winner didn't re-sign with St. Louis was money (The Cardinals' proposed deal reportedly failed to give Pujols one of the top five average annual salaries in the league). What will the Chicago Cubs probably have a great deal of at season's end? Money.
Landing Albert Pujols would most likely entail offering the slugger somewhere close to, if not, $30 million in annual salary. We know one thing for sure, that kind of money is enough to keep Pujols out of Chicago; the South side, that is.
"For the game's health as a whole, when we're talking about $30 million players, I think it's asinine," White Sox general manager Ken Williams told Comcast SportsNet in regards to the prospect of Pujols becoming the MLB's highest paid player. Williams went on to describe his preferred strategy were he to spend $30 million on his team: "If [owner Jerry Reinsdorf] gave me $30 million right now, I'm not going to spend it on one guy. Sorry, White Sox fans..But I tell you what, I'm going to take that $30 million and I'm going to distribute it around. My team is going to be better as a whole than it is with one player who might get hurt. Then you're done. Sorry, that's just me. And that's no disrespect to a future Hall of Famer, first ballot, one of the greatest players in history."
It may be no disrespect to Albert Pujols, but the same cannot be said towards those teams possibly considering making a run at the 3x NL MVP. It's no secret that the Cubs are now Pujols's most likely alternate destination, even though it is still uncertain whether he will reach free agency. The Cubs and the White Sox: their rivalry is no secret either.
The regular season series between the "North Siders" and "South Siders" is 41-37, but Williams may have just tried to score another point for his side. By deeming the prospect of a team giving Pujols $30 million in annual salary, the "South Siders" general manager is taking an indirect shot at Cubs management.
Although Williams is candid in his assessment of the Pujols contract situation, there is no doubt that his comments are an indication of the fact that he bristles at the thought of the game's best player landing across town. The Cubs may be "asinine" in even considering signing the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year to a contract stipulating a $30 million salary, but I think I know something Ken Williams would find even more "asinine": Albert Pujols leading the Chicago Cubs to their first Word Series title since 1908 before the White Sox win their fourth.